Monday, October 26, 2020


The Indian Act And The Future Of Aboriginal Governance In Canada

Historian Ken Coates |

University of Saskatchewan

It is important to understand both the origins and impact of the Indian Act. The Indian Act reflected the core assumptions held about Indigenous peoples by the dominant Euro-Canadian society in the mid to late 19th century. Its basic premises, summarized as providing for “civilization, protection and assimilation,” were that the Government of Canada viewed Aboriginal people as wards, that Indigenous communities and governments were incapable of managing their affairs, that the nation sought eventually to integrate Indigenous cultures into the Canadian mainstream, and that the First Peoples had to be separated from the rest of Canadian society until they were ready for the transition. The Indian Act was, and is, a powerful tool in the hands of the federal government, giving federal civil servants the authority to manage band affairs, supervise Indigenous lands and trust funds, direct the personal and family lives of individual Aboriginal people, and deny basic Canadian civil and personal rights to hundreds of thousands of “wards” of the federal state.